Blogs Around The World

Blogs Around The World

  • Spirituality is NOT an Adrenalin Rush

    I think there is a lot of confusion between spirituality and adrenalin rush among Christians lately. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that we stick to a stoic, cold, ritualistic style of worship or purely rationalistic spirituality. I think we need to allow for the diversity of spiritual expressions but recognize that it is just that – expressions – not spiritual norms that everyone must fit into...

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  • They Are for War

    “Too long my soul has made its home with those who lift the sword. I am for peace, but when I speak, they make for war.” (Lift Up Your Hearts Hymnal, 283) Psalm 120, the text on which the refrain is based, is rather different from most church’s standard repertoire of songs. The words, at first, feel disconcerting. Normal life, irrelevant of all the information we hear on the news, feels very far from war. And yet, the words seemed appropriate when I thought of the tensions in Ukraine and the escalating violence in the Middle East.

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  • The Left Hand of Christian Fellowship

    Since getting chikungunya fever a few months ago, Zach has pretty horrible arthritic pain in his right hand.  Every time he offers the right hand of fellowship, he cringes in pain, especially among the "importance-of-a-firm-hand-shake" crowd. So, Zach has taken up offering the "left hand of Christian fellowship." The only problem is that people don't really know what to do with this...

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  • And I Know He Watches Me

    Coming from eight cities across the United States and Canada, the 156 high-school-aged Youth Unlimited Serve participants arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With a week packed full of opportunities to serve the community. Serving people like Betty at her home, in organizations, in warehouses, in thrift stores, in soup kitchens, or even out on the streets, the volunteers discovered excitement in sharing the love of Christ...

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  • In the Mountains of Uganda

    Something really cool about people being farmers here is that a lot of the offerings and tithes at church are given as literal first-fruits from the garden.  There are frequently vegetables, eggs, and chickens given during the offering time.  The way the church turns those into money is by auctioning them off at the end of the service...

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  • Book Review--Origins

    Once upon a time--and still today--people who believe in a Christian education used evolution as a kind of shibboleth. Those of us who chose to send our kids to a Christian school could always say, "You know, if our kids went to public schools, they'd be taught that their ancestors were chimpanzees--how does that square with biblical thinking?" End of conversation. Maybe. Creation was a mainstay, a foundational principle. That God almighty created all things was a given in what most people considered a Christian worldview. Belief in evolution was belief in Godlessness. And it still is.

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  • Food Security Transforms Communities

    World Renew has supported the implementation of a food security project in two districts in Eastern Uganda with funding from the Foods Resource Bank (FRB). In that time the project, implemented in partnership with PAG Katakwi Integrated Development Organization (KIDO), has reached more than 1,800 farmers in 12 rural communities. The most vulnerable people in the community has equipped them with new skills and agricultural techniques...

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  • Deep Practice

    Through random book serendipity, I came across the 2009 book The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, and I’ve been reading about “talent hotbeds.” Coyle wanted to know why a certain Russian tennis academy produces a slew of champions, or the Dominican Republic a steady stream of baseball pros, or 1590s Elizabethan England an outpouring of great poets. He discovered that the answer is neither genetic mutations, nor climate, nor...

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  • I Quit: Failure + Academia

    There is a story of Elijah in the Old Testament when he blatantly tells God that he has had enough (1 Kings 19). Surprisingly enough his declaration comes right after he’d had a surpassing victory over the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18). The evil prophets had been killed, and God had shown his power in consuming Elijah’s water-soaked altar with fire. The reaction I expect is one of triumph and confidence. Instead, we are presented with an exhausted Elijah who informs God that he has had enough...

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  • Yolanda Was A Thief, But Faith Kept Us Strong

    This experience of walking alongside the survivors of Yolanda has made the words to a song by Hillsongs United even more poignant: The chorus to ‘Still’ says ‘When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father you are King over the flood. I will be still – know you are God.’ Our staff and the congregation of the church we attend sing this with so much heart. They have lived these lyrics...

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  • God Never Says "Oops"

    As I was driving my children to school and bobbing our heads to the rocking sounds of God Rock a line from a song caught my attention: God never says oops.... because he has a sovereign plan. I almost swerved the car off the road as I marveled at this profound lyric from a children's CD. I want my kid's to know this truth. I want my church to know this truth. I want the world to know this truth...

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  • Real Change

    In many of our prayers, we ask God to change a situation or to change a problem: We pray for favorable weather and bountiful crops. We pray for restoration for a relationship that is at (or past) the breaking point. We pray for peace in places in the world where there is violence. And these are good prayers; indeed, other psalms ask for a change in the poet’s situation. But I think Psalm 51 is so powerful because it acknowledges how my biggest problems are not external but rather internal...

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  • Preaching

    I can only imagine how helpful the world wide web is to a preacher these days. With so much information so blessedly available, coming up with fresh ideas has to be easy pickins. An article in Christian Century, "Plagiarism in the Pulpit," poses a very real question with a stiff opening line:  "Thou shalt not steal." Then, it lists a number of Christian notables in the U. S. of A., who were caught red-handed, fingers on the keys, real preaching superstars too.

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  • Peacekeeping vs Peacemaking

    Peace keeping is reactive. Some one raises a stink about something, we react and try to placate them in the  name of keeping the peace. This happens in our relationships. This happens in our churches. This happens with our family and friends. We try to keep the peace. We try to keep everyone happy. If everyone is happy, then there’s peace, right?...

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  • The Danger of External Christianity

    Many people in our culture assume Christianity is about being good people, moral, and upright citizens. Or, doing religious things and rituals to appease God. While there is a call to holy living and the use of the ordinary means of grace: worship, Word, sacraments, prayer, fellowship, service, this is not what saves us, or makes us right with God. The externals are fruit; not roots. John Calvin again warns us of external Christianity...

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  • What Does Our Search for "The Beach" Really Cost?

    In a movie called, “The Beach” an American college student goes to Thailand with the intention of experiencing something radically different from his familiar life. But at what cost, this perfect getaway…Most would imagine that the only cost is money. But the reality is that there are so many more costs. In Thailand, snorkeling among colorful coral reefs has been a huge income earner but it is slowly destroying their environment and their island...

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  • Dealing with People You May Love but Don't Like

    I was talking with gentleman the other day when in frustration he said something to this effect, "I wish that I could just forget for a day that I follow Jesus." When I asked him why, he mentioned how there was a person in his life right now that he was so angry and frustrated with, didn't really trust, who he simply wanted to tell them off really good. I thought to myself, I wonder how many of us face the same thing...

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  • Final Farewell from the Philippines

    We want to give you our ‘Final Beneficiary Story’, but we find that impossible. Each story that we have observed in the people around us is one that is ongoing. The lives of those we have been working with are evolving; these communities are being metamorphosed into places where individuals have dream, hope and a future. We can only give a glimpse into some of their lives so that you, for a moment, can see the changes that are taking place...

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  • Ottawa SERVE 2014 - Day 1 - Friday: Mentor's Arrive

    It's July in Ottawa.With July comes a great tradition. The beginning of Ottawa's Youth Unlimited Special Needs SERVE event. Hosted at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, but with participation of many volunteers from many places in Ontario, all help make SERVE a great and successful week. This will be our 6th SERVE in 7 years. Lots of planning goes into a SERVE and I'm amazed once again at the work done to pull this week off...

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  • D-Day and the Accreditation of Calvin Theological SeminarySeminary

    June 6, 1944 is the D-Day date of the Allied Invasion of Normandy, France, which many mark as the key turning point in World War II. The very next day – June 7, 1944 – is the date that Calvin Theological Seminary was initially accredited by the ATS. That was 70 years ago. But this is the question that intrigued me: Why did Calvin Theological Seminary seek accreditation in the press and weariness of World War II?...

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  • When Helping Hurts Training in Kaberamaido

    Last week I did my When Helping Hurts training again, this time in Kabermaido with the Pentecostal Assembly of God denomination (PAG). The participants were pastors, other church leaders, and the staff members of KMDP (the development organization of the PAG). This training went very smoothly and the pastors understood things quickly. The need for training is huge. Out of 193 pastors, only 8 pastors have a Bible school education...

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  • Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

    Theologians are sometimes known for our nit-picking about issues nobody else cares about. Sometimes we are absolutely insistent that if this or that word is not correct, all of Christendom will be misled and the church will go down the tubes. Lately, life after death is one such issue. Granted, there are a lot of misunderstandings around about what happens when we die. The Bible is actually not all that clear on the topic and any number of ideas have floated around in the history of Christianity with appropriate minority and majority positions identified.

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  • Why I Stick With My Calvinism

    I read a lot of blogs, some by Christians, some by atheists, a lot by doubters who sit in various chairs. I understand their doubts. I understand when believers abandon their faith. I love talking to honest skeptics who ask honest questions. Honest questions are some of the most lovely speech I know. Sometimes they wonder why I believe when it seems to them there are so many reasons not to. Why stick with the Calvinism I inherited...

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  • What I've Learned from Field Visits

    In all the areas that I have visited so far, the people are learning about various issues such as early marriage, family planning, trafficking, health, and various justice and gender issues. Parents are learning that they should not marry off their 13-15 year old daughters. Women are learning that they have the right to leave the home, that their husbands are not allowed to hit them...

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  • Circling the Wagons

    Even before yesterday's Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, Jonathan Rauch, in an article in the new Atlantic, warns evangelical Christians against what he calls "secession" from a world that's much wider than their own fellowship community. He claims that if Christians "hunker down," they'll be taking a wrong turn. When Christians create institutions set apart from society, he says, it effectively takes them out of the conversation...

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  • DIY Spirituality

    We look at it the same way we look at so many other things: DIY. Do it Yourself. Spirituality is individual, right? It’s our own personal spiritual journey, right? Spirituality is a private thing, right? You can try spirituality by yourself. The thing is, is that you won’t get far. You can only do so much by yourself. We need others. We need community. Our spiritual journey comes not from doing it ourselves, but doing life with others. It begins by doing life with Jesus first.

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  • Acting Justly and Loving Mercy in Pakenham

    This Christian community took on the name PC3 (Pakenham Christian Community Church). In order to discover how to reach the unchurched in Pakenham, the core group of PC3 did some research on their community. They also considered the passions and skills of people within their core group. They soon realised that one key way they could reach the lost was to provide a weekly Community Feed. Anyone and everyone could come out to a weekly gathering where they would receive a free nutritious meal and where PC3 could begin to establish relationships with the people.

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  • When Helping Hurts Training in Atutur

    This was a very interesting training for me. The training focuses on how we can help the poor in wise ways, but it makes for a unique time when most of the people being trained are materially poor themselves. In fact one man had no food just last month. He lived entirely on mangoes. He asked neighbors for help and nobody helped him. Now he is doing okay. But knowing that there were many like him in my group gave me a different perspective...

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  • Evil Empires

    The bottom line is perfectly clear for all the world to see: the persecution of men and women who profess the Christian faith has reached levels greater—higher, bloodier—than the world has seen for many years. I am far less a citizen of this world than I should be. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine an evil empire in which one’s faith could be the sole cause for bloody persecution and death.

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  • How in Jesus Slaves Become Siblings

    If the Bible is inspired, why didn’t God outlaw alavery? The question of the Bible and slavery illustrates for many people in the Western world today a foundational reason why the Bible can’t be anything but just another human creation and the God asserted by it an outmoded expression of the primitive cultures from which it arose. If there is an all powerful, all knowing God who is responsible for the contents of this book, why on earth wouldn’t such a God be smart enough or good enough to include in this book a clear call for the abolition of slavery?...

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  • Upcoming: The Doubter's Devotional

    Official announcement here of my upcoming book, The Doubter’s Devotional: Daily Readings for Seekers and Skeptics. I am on the front end of this project, but wanted to let you know that it’s in the works. I plan to incorporate some existing quotes/readings and then provide some of my own original reflections on them. Any writers or works you’d recommend or like to see? Suggestions for content are welcome...

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  • 30% in 30 Days Update

    We started the month of June feeling rather uncertain and discouraged. Still needing 30% of our financial partnership goal with only one month to go until the anticipated start date (July 1) of our new assignment, I suppose that was to be expected. Though we still have a ways to go before we meet our goal, we nonetheless feel hopeful. We have gained a few new partners and some current partners have increased the level of their partnership.

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  • Top 10 Reasons to Preach on Radiation Therapy

    Here are the top ten reasons for preaching radiation therapy; 1. Over the past 5 years you’ve been given the opportunity to learn how to preach scientific texts though your involvement in two John Templeton faith/science grants. Having already preached 15 science based sermons on topics ranging from physics to hydrology to neurology to nephrology, you find yourself in a place where it wouldn’t seem odd to preach radiation physics...

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  • Opium Freedom Journey

    In Phongsaly province, opium addicts’ families are often the poorest. Sometimes opium-addicted fathers sell the rice harvest leaving their families without rice. The addiction consumes both their money ($2/day) and their time, as they wile away many hours smoking. As a result, both families and whole villages languish. In the face of this challenge World Renew is trying to introduce coffee as an alternative cash crop...

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  • Home

    “Where are you from?” For some of us, that is a loaded question. Quite often, I answer with the town I currently live in and then the next question comes: “Is that where you grew up?” Nope. As a preacher’s kid, I grew up in several places. None are exactly what I would call home. Home has tended to be wherever my family was. The funny thing is, there is one place that I never lived yet seems to feel the most like home to me...

     

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  • Anticipation

    In just a few short days a group of us will leave for Rehoboth New Mexico for a week.  I want our students and adults to be as prepared as possible and to succeed in every area of the trip. But leaving at 4 am and driving all day is intimidating. Having the whole group look to me for the plan is frightening. All that said, I still can't wait. I am so excited for the new experience that this will be to our group. The people we will meet and the experiences that we will live. It will be amazing. But the amazement won't be because of anything I do - I know that all too well.

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  • Unwinding the Home Service

    Home Service is never easy. Some people think I'm here on vacation, but honestly, it's not a holiday. I have been in a different church almost every weekend since returning to Ontario. I have LOVED sharing God's stories of what's going on in Uganda, and meeting with some amazing people in the churches, but traveling from town to town, home to home has worn me out. I have slept on at least 18 different beds and have logged in over 7000km...

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  • The Meek

    “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Christian piety is, by the standards of traditional orthodoxy, never good enough. “Give all that you have to the poor and follow me,” Jesus told a rich young CEO. Some claim Christ himself was being more than a bit hyperbolic. I think that’s true. I find lines like this verse disconcerting, declarations of the glories of a piety that’s so grandly unattainable. Maybe it’s all the fault of my Aunt Meek...

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  • Learning to Enjoy Sabbath/ Sunday

    To my delight, it was fairly unanimous during our Bible Study that Sabbath (e.g., Sunday rest) is considered to be a blessing. At the same time, it was also obvious that it was complicated. Some in the group had grown up with very strict guidelines of what should and should not happen on Sunday. Others had had very little structure in their day, making the day be not all that significant.

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  • Who God Says You Are

    You are not, ultimately, who your parents, or your classmates, or your teachers say you are. For that matter, you are not the good or bad things you’ve done, your GPA or your free-throw percentage, the clothes you wear or the car you drive. You are who God says you are. Because in Jesus, God has given you a new name, too. It might not be a name like “Peter”’–one that appears on your birth certificate, or that you are called by your friends. But it is a name that God whispers in your ear by his Spirit. A name like: Beloved Child.  Holy... 

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  • A Messed Up World, and Doubts About Renewal

    I have an old friend, let’s call him Kevin, a nominal Christian; he goes to church for weddings, funerals, Christmas morning, and maybe once in a blue moon. He and his wife are skeptics and suspicious of churches, but they admire and respect regular Christian ethics. When I joined World Renew he laughed and joked, saying “… that’s an extremely ambitious name; this world is in a terrible state, and you and a small bunch of people think you can renew it?” We had a good email discussion but he remains skeptical...

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  • What Was #CRCSynod 2014?

    There were a number of testimonies coming out of the advisory committees of appreciation for their leadership. The advisory committee that had to handle the Wisconsin Overture and the one that had to handle the Banner overtures both came with singular reports despite the fact that members reported being far apart from each other entering the process. This bears witness to good leadership who could clearly hear the concerns of diverse...

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  • Unity

    I grew up blissfully ignorant of any fighting between the CRC and RCA.  It was only after moving to a small town that had its origins in the Dutch immigrant community that I encountered the problem. My neighbor who was RCA told me about growing up next door to a CRC family that would not allow their children to play with any kids who were not CRC, including the RCA kids next door. I heard stories of kids on both sides of the fence being told by those on the other side that they were going to hell. Really...

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  • The Language of Awesome

    Language is awesome. It’s fluid. It’s alive. It’s ever changing, adapting, moving, creating. Recently I learned about the words “toats” “jelly” “adorbs” and “cray” (with the superlative being “cray-cray”). Though I initially cringed and complained about these new variations of totally, jealous, adorable, and crazy (there’s no real superlative to crazy, so cray-cray might just be it), I’ve adapted and see how language continues to live and breathe and create...

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  • Final Farewell

    In April I had the privilege of visiting Hyde County, NC, as World Renew DRS was finishing our work in the coastline communities that were impacted by Hurricane Irene in 2011. There were multiple high points during my visit, including time spent with our volunteers and renewed relationships with our UMC friends.  But the most memorable highlight, by far, was visiting a hurricane survivor named Joyce whose home we had the privilege of restoring...

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  • After the Storm

    Last night's catastrophes are recorded by rain gauges, like mine, filled to overflowing. Floods blanket the flat land this morning, river banks seemingly gone. Somewhere deaths are being mourned. But life goes on just outside my window. Once again this morning, the players are here, even the goldfinch, full of song that's so much bigger than their diminutive selves. Another day out here on the edge of the Great Plains... 

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  • Bummed but Still Blessed...

    We are tired of doctor visits (about 39 in two months), but when I want to complain I remember how blessed we are. We are getting the care we need, this is temporary, and God is our healer. I feel more now for everyone who deals with medical issues daily. We are blessed to know others are praying for us. I have been touched by your emails, concern and care. Thank you...

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  • Dads Bring Home More Than Bacon (Not Less)

    Men are living like boys hanging around high school parking lots remembering the state championship in football; instead of playing Legos with their kid's (metaphorically). Dads, we need more than your bacon...we need your presence. We need more than your provision (not less)... we need a vision bigger than the American Dream. We need you to teach our children what it means to be responsible men and woman. We need you to care about something bigger than the next golf outing or who won the game. We need you to be strong and weak at the same time willing to ask for help.

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  • Inheritance

    To promise, as the NIV does, that those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land sounds, in this region, like a pipe dream—and it is. Good people don’t inevitably win in the quest for land ownership. The mid-80s’ “farm crisis” made that perfectly clear. More often than not, good, hard-working people got flattened. Sorry, David—maybe that was true in old Israel, but it’s not true—nor should anyone promise it—in the rural areas of the Upper Midwest. The KJV says, more metaphorically perhaps, that the righteous will inherit the earth.

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  • Remembering Those Who Served

    Naval Station Norfolk is the largest U.S. naval base in the world. It is home to more than 100,000 people. Our tour took us past numerous ships that were in port including four submarines that we likely would not have noticed had the guide not pointed them out. But my favorite ships by far were the two Nimitz Class aircraft carriers that were docked that weekend. These ships are the size of small towns. They are propelled by two nuclear reactors...

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